Do you remember when Christmas was simple? You enjoyed the decorations around town. You made a wish list. You visited Santa. You gobbled up cookies at ten parties. You stared in awe and wonder at your glowing Christmas tree (and the gifts wrapped neatly under it). Then, on Christmas morning, you ripped open packages and enjoyed a shower of new and colorful stuff. It was magical!
Other than visiting Santa (I was not a fan), the above was pretty much my childhood experience. Nothing was better than Christmas – absolutely nothing! It took forever to come and then it was over too soon.
That was then, and this is now. Christmas is still my favorite time of the year, but it is far from carefree. There is shopping, cooking, planning, traveling, stressing, and decorating (if I feel like it that year) to do. Finally, I see why some adults are thrilled to see the Christmas season go. They are not crazy. They are tired!
When I was a young lady dreaming of marriage, I did not realize blending holiday expectations would be so complicated! What we consider a normal or perfect Christmas may not jive with our sweetie’s experiences at all. While mistletoe might be a staple in your home, your future spouse might find it uncomfortable or unnecessary. You may think a Christmas tree has to be real while your future spouse expects one tree to last thirty years.
Struggles of Christmases Past
Due to our geographical distance from Eric’s side of the family, Eric and I spend most Christmases with my parents in North Carolina; and, while I wish I could say each visit has been magical, some have not been. A couple of our Christmas visits have been overwhelming and emotionally exhausting. Blending two families is not always as easy as Hallmark movies lead us to believe.
Emotions run high at Christmas. There are memories and we grieve over those we have lost. There is shopping stress (“Ugh! I never know what to buy him!”). And in the bustle, we do not always get enough sleep. We are out of our routines and elements. Christmas can bring out our worst traits, even though we would expect the opposite. Eric and I have endured some significantly negative Christmas moments together. There has been unbearable tension between us on occasion. Many times, I have craved the joy and simplicity of yesteryear.
Before you combine your sweetie with your family this Christmas, prepare! Prepare him or her, and prepare yourself!
Ways to Prepare Your Relationship for Christmastime!
- Praying should happen first and often. If you frequently pray for a positive and uplifting holiday, you are more likely to have one. In addition to having God’s help, being in constant prayer prepares your heart. We are sweeter and more aware of our attitudes after spending time with the Lord in prayer. When I pray on the way to visit my parents, I typically have a more pleasant experience because I am more prepared to speak kindly and not get testy.
- Discuss your individual Christmas desires beforehand. If you want to attend a Christmas Eve service, talk about it in advance. If you want to go caroling or to look at Christmas lights, say something now! If you and your family have some meaningful traditions, discuss them. Let your sweetie know how you would like the holiday to unfold, and then you can compromise if it is needed.
- Explain your traditions and let your sweetie know what to expect from your family. Uncle Joe tells inappropriate jokes, but we do not take him seriously. Cousin Hannah will ask you a thousand questions, but if you excuse yourself, she will not get offended. At midnight on Christmas morning, we stay up and exchange one gift. Routines which are commonplace to you might throw your sweetie for a loop, so prepare the way for him or her. Knowledge is a great defense against anxiety!
- Plan special traditions and some alone time. Spend quality one-on-one time with your special lady or gentleman. Stealing away for a short walk is better than having no time to reconnect. Since we are always with others at Christmas, Eric and I have started some personal traditions such as exchanging an ornament at midnight Christmas morning.
- Include your boyfriend or girlfriend in the festivities, but do not overdo it. Is she sitting in the corner staring in horror at your massive family? Is he struggling to break the ice with your parents or siblings? Gently include him or her in your conversations. Explain stories or inside jokes. Allow him or her to take a breather if the experience becomes too overwhelming, and show grace if he or she does not fall in love with your traditions overnight.
- Explain your needs before you begin your Christmas celebration. If you are introverted and need a lot of alone time, make that known. If you have ten Christmas parties you want to attend in a week’s time, put that on the table. If you cannot handle hours of heated political conversation, tell your sweetie and plan to excuse yourself if his or her family gets riled! You can work out a plan if both parties are aware of each other’s desires.
- Have a united plan for dealing with outside conflict. You know your family, and you are aware of complications which may arise. Maybe your Christmases are tense due to the presence of alcohol. Perhaps your Mom and sister-in-law do not get along. Does Dad have strong opinions and a tendency to disburse them harshly? Eric sometimes repeats a phrase he once heard, “all families are dysfunctional because they have people in them.” We may be used to our dysfunction, but our significant other may not be. Think through potential downers which could bring the party to a halt and agree on how you will handle those situations. Doing so is good practice because once you are married, you will need to build healthy boundaries around your new family – especially once children enter the scene.
We sincerely hope your Christmas is a delightfully memorable one; and, if it is your first Christmas with your huggle bear, congratulations on that! We hope you have a warm and drama-free holiday. No matter how easy going you both are or how welcoming your families may be, it is wise to prepare each other for what to expect.
December is almost here! Let the magical madness begin! How are those blessing advent calendars coming along?
What should you prepare your sweetie for this Christmas?
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